My daughter Callie is a student at Covenant College. Last week she wrote a paper on a person in ministry who deals with a disability. Callie chose me. My disability is depression and anxiety. She sent me three questions to answer.
1) How does your faith change the way you interact with your depression?
I believe that dependency on Christ is the essence of Christian faith. In other words, Christians are in a trusting union with Christ and, apart from this union, they can’t do anything to help themselves or anyone else. But, just because I believe this intellectually does not mean that I yield to it easily. I suffer with depression and anxiety. Depression is a weird sort of disability. It’s the kind of thing that has crippled me in an invisible way. Others aren’t able to see it. For years I wanted to believe that I was OK. That I could build enough emotional ‘muscle’ to overcome depression. I tried to use Christ improperly to build this muscle. Maybe if I prayed enough or read the Bible enough or worked enough or toughened myself enough or performed enough – the depression would go away. It didn’t. It has taken me a long time to understand that Christ planned to ‘cripple me’ with depression in order to humble me and love me. And like a Christian man with two paralyzed legs has to grow accustomed to loving Christ from a wheel chair, I am having to grow accustomed to loving Christ from the constrictions of medication and an adjusted lifestyle. I used to feel that Christ would help me conquer depression once and for all. This would work for a little while. But when depression would cripple me I would feel abandoned by Christ. Now I am learning that Christ is using depression to conquer my self-sufficiency, my pride, and my shame. Continue reading →
Someone recently asked me, “Tim, if you were to choose a symbol for your life, what would it be and why?”
This is the symbol I would use. Christ has taken residence at the center of my life. The grace of God, through the gospel, is what empowers my life. This grace is leading me to a maturing dependence on Christ as my Lord and Savior. The ultimate aim that Christ has for my life is not personal perfection or external compliance or communal belonging. The aim is Christ dependence. This Christ dependence is expressed through repentance and faith. Repentance and faith (continually coming back to the Gospel) produces a Christ-likeness that is matured in my affections, my understanding, and my obedience. My life is being tailored by the Spirit of God to be a dance around the cross. The Spirit will continue this work of grace until at last I behold my Savior face to face.
I don’t do a lot of hiking. In fact, I have only gone a few times, but I like it a lot. This week I’m going hiking with my dad. We are in Asheville, North Carolina at a Young Life camp called Windy Gap. It is a beautiful place, nestled in a valley up in the Smoky Mountains. It is one of the first times in years that my family is on vacation with no worries and no distractions. I have my family all to myself. My Dad has been saying that we are all going to hike up to a place called Pioneer Plunge. It’s a very long hike, moving uphill the entire way. My Mom and sister are not enthusiastic. The day of the hike arrives and my Dad decides that he is going to go alone if none of us want to go with him. I hastily volunteer to tag along. He has been teaching me the whole week to use my gifts of tenacity and determination, and so I decide that this is the perfect opportunity to put those gifts to work.
We start along the trail. Early on I think to myself that this will be easy. I have no idea that it is a 5-mile hike and the path is steeper than I thought it would be. About halfway through, I am feeling the burn. I can tell my dad is too. I keep telling myself to put one foot in front of the other. I can’t start complaining; I don’t want to be a wimp. We both push ourselves and eventually we make it. Pioneer Plunge is an actual rustic settlement. It has four cabins and everything is built from natural resources. My Dad is showing me all the old architecture, the bathhouse, the way they keep their food cold, and the way the mountain stream feeds into the pond. I can’t really focus on anything but that pond. I am so thirsty and my Dad tells me that the water is safe to drink.
He lays down in a hammock to rest. My thirst is getting the better of me. I run as fast as my weak legs can take me and start gulping down the fresh water in the lake. Finally refreshed I turn to see my dad sidling towards me.
“I dare you to jump in there naked,” He says. I chuckle and he starts to smile.
“I will if you will.” I reply.
“Okay,” he said.
“Yeah, why not?”
We both start roaring with laughter. My dad will never cease to surprise me.
Dressed in nothing more than what we were born with, we quickly realize that the water is colder than we thought.
I had a great birthday today. Martha Jo and I went to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrel’s Inlet. Brookgreen is beautiful – nature, art, poetry, gardens. Just a gorgeous place. And I was able to enjoy it with my favorite person in the whole world. It couldn’t get any better. When we were there together, MJ gave me a card that was so cool. She wrote:
You were handmade.
With the utmost care and attention
Designed with careful detail
With purpose and plan
Every circumstance that has taken place
Has been contrived and redeemed
Nothing in your life Has been wasted!
Every quality that Christ has placed in you
Is both necessary and needed
Every grace lavished on you
Has been for His delight and glory
That the Lord would see fit to make someone like you
Strong, smart, seasoned, insightful, intuitive
Tender, funny, delightful, demonstrative
Curious, creative, courageous
A communicator, committed
Responsive to Jesus –
And that He would give you to me
This is amazing, astounding, and
The best birthday present
I have ever been given!
Happy Birthday Mel, I love you!!!
Martha Jo, you are such a wonderful blessing. Thanks for giving me a great day. I love you!
As many of you know, I have spent a great deal of my professional career in youth ministry. Several years ago, I had a kid in my group named James Yon. James has always had a zest for life. Everything he does, he goes full out, full on, head first, and eyes closed. He was always the greatest kid to have on youth trips and events, because James always brought the happy with him. You didn’t have to worry about an event being boring. If James was there, it didn’t matter what you were doing, it was going to be an adventure. Several years ago James joined the Marine Corp to help defend our country. Needless to say, I was worried about him. How would he do? Would he be okay? I just loved the guy so much, I couldn’t bear to think about something bad happening to him. I knew he would be brave. There was no doubt about that.
Many of you are aware of my recent bout with kidney stones. The stones emerged last week, the day before Easter, when I prayed that Christ would allow me to identify with Him in the suffering of his passion. Eleven days later, on Monday night, I again went to bed in pain. The week has been a blur; every day with intermittent fever and the enduring the grip of sometimes nagging, sometimes crippling pain. Every night, shuffling off to bed, half asleep – half awake, while little knives stabbed into my lower back. Every morning waking up at 4 am, an invisible zombie eating into my kidney. Monday night was no exception. Before going to bed, I thought to myself, “What would it be like to live with this pain the rest of my life – to know that every day would be a battle against physical misery? There must be so many in the world who do.”